Injuries at Home Can Still be Covered by Workers’ Compensation
Everyone knows that many jobs do not fall into the “9-5” category. Our firm successfully represented a police officer who suffered a work related injury in his own garage. We were able to show that even though the officer was not at the police station or on patrol at the time of the accident, his injuries at home were a result of his employment and was covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Injured workers must show that the accident they suffered “arose out of” and was “in the course of” their employment. For an injury to “arise out of” employment, its origins must be in some risk connected with or incidental to the employment. For an injury to be “in the course of” employment, it must occur within a period of employment, at a place where workers may reasonably be in the performance of their duties, and while they are fulfilling those duties or engaged in something incidental to those duties. In short, “in the course of” refers to the time, place, and circumstances of the injury. In many situations, this burden is not difficult to prove.
At other times, however, the circumstances of the accident are more complex. This was the case for the injured police officer. The officer maintained a duty bag as party of his job. The office kept his helmet, gas masks, legal codes, ammunition, handcuffs, firearm, metal baton, and a flashlight in the duty bag. This bag weighed approximately 40 pounds. The officer kept the bag with him at all times for safekeeping. He would keep the bag in his garage when he was not on duty. The department allowed all officers to keep their duty bag with them when they were not on duty.
To prepare for his shift, the officer would move the duty bag from his garage to his personal vehicle, drive to the police station, and then transfer the bag to his squad car. One morning, as the officer was lifting the bag from his garage’s floor into the trunk of his car, he felt a pop in his lower back and experienced immediate, excruciating pain. The officer had to crawl from his garage into his home. He saw an orthopedic doctor the next day and underwent spine surgery just two days after the accident.
The workers’ compensation carrier for the officer’s department denied all benefits. The carrier claimed that since the injury happened at home, the officer was not entitled to benefits. We were able to show that the incident of lifting the duty bag, even though it happened at home, was an accident that arouse out of and in the course of the officer’s employment and that this accident was the reason he needed surgery. Even though the officer was at home when the injury occurred, the court decided that when the officer lifted the duty bag in his own garage he was fulfilling his job duties and was performing an activity the department could reasonably expect him to be doing. The court added that because the officer could be needed at any time, it benefitted the department for the officer to keep the duty bag with him at home and transport it to work each day. These arguments persuaded the court to award workers’ compensation benefits to the officer.
As in the case described above, there are various unique situations that result in work-related accidents that are covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act. It is important to talk to an attorney with knowledge and experience in workers’ compensation in order to ensure that all benefits an injured worker is entitled to are recovered.
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If you are an injured first responder or a family member of one that has suffered serious injury, know your rights. Call (630) 585-2320 so that we may help protect these very important rights and protections.